History of the Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund
Freedom of Conscience
Freedom of conscience was at the very core of the founding of this nation. Starting in 1662, most American colonial governments made provisions for those who objected to military service on the basis of conscience. The first Continental Congress resolved in 1775 that it would also recognize the rights of those who could not bear arms because of religious scruples.
Many immigrants, however, who came to the United States to seek religious freedom and escape forced military service found instead that conscientious objectors to war were persecuted and imprisoned.
During World War I, there was little allowance in the law for conscientious objectors. Four hundred objectors were imprisoned. Several died in prison as a result of mistreatment.
Since 1940, when legislation was passed establishing alternative service for drafted conscientious objectors, there has been some protection for the rights of conscience.
The Struggle Continues
Although conscientious objectors to war have not been forced to serve in active combat for more than 50 years, they are still required to support the military through taxation.
Increasingly, the ability of a government to wage war relies less on conscripted soldiers and more on drafted dollars to pay for advanced technology. These advanced weapons wreak incredible destruction and death when used. These same weapons also kill when not used by denying resources to those most in need. This is a double violence.
Today citizens who are conscientious objectors risk fines and jail sentences to withhold taxes that support war. Some impoverish themselves and their families rather than be legally bound to pay such taxes and thus violate their deeply held beliefs. These are people deeply driven by values born of conscience.
Is there a way to permit sincere conscientious objectors to pay their full tax obligation without violating deeply held religious or ethical beliefs? The Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Bill is a proposal designed make such accommodation and to ensure that legal penalties are not imposed because of those beliefs.
The Peace Tax Fund Bill was introduced in Congress in 1972. Support in Congress has grown since its inception.
Campaign Fact Sheet
The National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund is organized solely to pass legislation which would provide a way for persons to participate in the tax system without violating their conscientiously held beliefs. The proposed legislation would amend the Internal Revenue Code to provide that a taxpayer conscientiously opposed to any participation in war could have his or her income, estate, and gift tax payments spent for non-military purposes only. The Campaign advocates and educates on behalf of citizens who are petitioning the government for the right to pay 100% of their taxes without violating deeply held religious or ethical teachings. As the law now stands, they cannot.
Our central affirmation is that each individual has the right not to be coerced into participation in killing other human beings-whether that participation is physical or financial. Ultimately this right is based in the freedom to exercise religion according to the dictates of conscience.
The Campaign was founded in 1971 to address this basic issue of conscientious objection to war as it involves the payment of taxes. The House of Representatives held hearings on the proposal in 1992 and 1995. Voluntary contributions from some 5,000 individuals and from organizations support all of our activities.
A dramatic increase in support for the idea of a peace tax fund has been realized in recent years. This has been in the context of a widespread interest in the protections for conscientious objectors to war. Among endorsers of the U.S. Peace Tax Fund are the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), a denomination constituting nearly three million members, and the General Board of Church and Society of the nine-million-member United Methodist Church.
The international interest in conscientious objection has included new provisions instituted in Poland, Russia, Hungary, and Brazil, together with adoption of this right by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1989 "as a legitimate exercise of freedom of thought, conscience and religion." Also the Steering Committee on Human Rights of the Council of Europe, as well as many church-based groups in Latin America, Asia and Eastern Europe are taking positions in support of conscientious objection.
Nations which have active Peace Tax Fund campaigns include: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France,
Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and
the United States.